Everything Everywhere's 4G launch needs to learn from mistakes made by US suppliers

Network provider or handset maker: the mobile market is the commercial battlefield where the bullets fly thickest.

It should be no news to anyone that the latest mobile offensive is the rush to provide 4G services.

This week sees high noon for 4G in the UK, as today Everything Everywhere unveils its new fourth generation brand and a rumoured partnership with Nokia. At an estimated cost of £100m, the Everything Everywhere 4G launch will be the biggest in telecoms since O2's debut back in 2002.

It presents a marketing conundrum for Everything Everywhere's agencies Saatchi & Saatchi and SapientNitro.

Just what does 4G – a complex mix of several technologies involving frequencies and microchips – mean to consumers? (I wouldn't bother Wikipedia-ing 4G; its definition carries the warning: 'This article may be too technical for readers to understand'.)

And how should the networks convince consumers that they need download speeds 10 times faster than that of 3G?

And what can the brand learn from the US, where networks including T-Mobile have advertised 4G services since 2010, using the term as a catch-all for faster downloads.

Any US lesson centres more around what not to do. The uneven patchwork of 4G coverage across the States led several providers there to mistakenly claim to provide the full service, only to be criticised for confusing, rather than convincing, consumers about its benefits.

T-Mobile dropped claims in its US advertising that it has 'America's largest 4G network'.

Even Apple has been caught out by complaints over its use of the term 4G in ads for iPad 2; it was asked by the ASA here to delete claims in its advertising that it works with 4G, because the technology is not yet widely available in the UK.

Here T-Mobile and Orange parent Everything Everywhere has, theoretically at least, early-mover advantage in defining the term, though its indecision over its component brands doesn’t augur well.

T-Mobile, for its part, will have learnt its US lesson and will doubtless avoid misleading UK consumers about 4G’s promise. 

The marketing task will be a huge test of Saatchi & Saatchi's and SapientNitro's mettle.

In the meantime, Everything Everywhere should also take a leaf out of any Apple’s launch of recent years, aside from iPad 2: concentrate less on the technical specifics and more on functional benefits.

That way Everything Everywhere may have consumers dancing in the streets once more.

Noelle McElhatton is editor of Marketing. Follow her on Twitter: @n_mcelhatton

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